In the past 45 days, the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has notified two eco-sensitive zones (ESZs), spread over Shivamogga, Chikkamagaluru, Dakshina Kannada, and Udupi districts, in Karnataka. A major section of residents are worried about their future as the notification imposes several restrictions on development activities.
The MoEF declared 740.56 sq.km around the Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary (Tiger Reserve) as an ESZ through a notification issued on June 15. In another notification, issued on July 2, the ministry declared 316.63 sq.km around the Kudremukh National Park as an ESZ.
These zones will act as transition areas for the highly protected places. Both the notifications list flora and fauna unique to these localities and stresses on the importance of protecting them.
Though there is no restriction on agricultural activities, any development activity in the zone has to be according to the Zonal Master Plan to be prepared by the State government in next two years. A monitoring committee, to be headed by the Regional Commissioner, will have the final say on the activities.
Several residents of Umblebailu, Kakanahosudi, Lingapura, which fall under the Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary ESZ, have submitted a memorandum to the Deputy Commissioner in Shivamogga opposing the notification.
Many of these families were shifted to the present location when the Tunga and the Bhadra dams were constructed decades ago.
Our parents struggled hard to rebuild their lives after they were forced to move out. Only in the recent years, we could develop our lands and lead a decent life. This notification has brought back the old nightmares, said R. Dinesh, member of the Shivamogga Taluk Panchayat.
Many have criticised the notification for not consulting the people to be affected. The MoEF issued draft notifications a year ago. However, the people hardly knew about them. The residents maintained that the ministry issued final notifications without consulting the people to be affected.
B.A. Ramesh Hegde, member of the Shivamogga City Corporation, said there was no need for declaring areas as ESZ, as there had been many laws meant to conserve forest areas already.
If we have retained forests all these years, it is because of the native dwellers. There has been no public hearing before issuing the notification, he said.
Even the peoples representatives claim ignorance of this development. Many villages of Mudigere taluk come under the ESZ, but M.P. Kumaraswamy, Mudigere MLA, had no clue about this.
There has been no harm to the forest or the wildlife by the people in the area. It is because of mining operation that devastation occurred. I will raise this issue with the State government and urge it to take a stand against the notification, he said. The district administration of Chikkamagaluru is already facing the shortage of revenue land for development works, including housing schemes. The notification will further intensify this problem. A major portion of Sringeri taluk comes under the Kudremukh National Park ESZ. Hardly any land is left for other activities, pointed out Kalkuli Vittal Heggade, a social activist based in Sringeri.
The notification, he said, had listed many animals, but left out the farmer, whose existence in Malnad is in real danger.
Let the MoEF tell us what harm these local people have done to the forest or wildlife all these years. I demand that the State government take a stand against the report and convey it to the Centre, he added.